Thursday, October 01, 2009

Did Homophobia at the Law School Cause a Professor to Jet?

Maybe the history of homophobia at the Law School - gone now, of course! - didn't start and end with the students.

William (Bill) Eskridge is a law professor at Yale who teaches Constitutional Law, Legislation, and Sexuality, Gender, and the Law, but he used to teach at Virginia back in the 1980s. Mr. Eskridge is gay. And last week, he gave testimony (opens a .doc file) to the House Committee on Education and Labor on the pending Employment and Non-Discrimination Act of 2009, which would "bar sexual orientation and sexual orientation and gender identiy discrimination in the workplace by states as well as by private employers." According to Mr. Eskrdige, the ENDA is a proper exercise of Congress's authority 14th Amendment . . .

Why is this law needed? Well for one thing, Mr. Eskridge alleges that the Law School denied him tenure because he is gay:
For an example explained in my statement, I was denied tenure at the University of Virginia School of Law in 1985 based in part on my sexual orientation. The hysterical behavior and deployment of anti-gay epithets by key state officials indicates that the decision was influenced by anti-gay prejudice. The inability of state officials to explain their decision without engaging in libel underlines the irrationality of the state discrimination and its vulnerability to equal protection attack.

Pretty serious accusation right? Well the man is talking before Congress - let him speak: what follows is a summary from Mr. Eskridge's testimony (from Hunter of Justice), but I urge you all to read the whole thing if you are interested. It's scathing.

Starting in Fall Term 1982, I was an assistant professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, one of the most prominent state institutions of higher learning about law in the United States. My time there was both happy and productive . . . .

I am not aware of any junior faculty member at Virginia’s School of Law who had as extensive a publication record as I had when I came up for tenure in academic year 1985-86. Although I was gay and was dating men in Washington, DC during my tenure at Virginia, I was never publicly “out,” largely because I thought that such a status would be lethal for tenure purposes; from time to time, I heard snide anti-homosexual comments from senior faculty . . .

My understanding was that the subcommittee’s [extremely positive report recommending tenure] was supposed to serve as the factual record for the Appointments Committee to consider in making its tenure recommendation to the faculty. Before my case, the Appointments Committee had generally included at least one faculty member who was also on the subcommittee, and the report was always accepted as the primary basis for the final recommendation. In my case, however, there was no overlap of personnel, and the Appointments Committee wrote its own report, apparently the first time that happened under this bifurcated system. … According to faculty colleagues, the committee’s meeting was an emotional one, filled with tension and anxiety.

The morning after the committee’s negative meeting, I remained unaware of the committee’s recommendations and of its substantive objections. Apparently, other senior faculty members became aware of the committee’s negative leanings and the fact that the committee had kept me in completely in the dark and was not following the procedures that had been duly established by the faculty. While I sat in my office preparing for class that morning, stormy conversations were apparently occurring at various parts of the law school’s building. Late in the morning, as I was finishing up my class preparation, the chair of the committee stormed into my office and screamed at me for 10 minutes or so. With clenched fists and a beet-red face, the chair of the committee threw a tantrum that included a string of accusations, such as “stabbing me in the back” and behaving in the treacherous manner that he and his colleagues ought to have expected of a “faggot.”

Apparently, the chair thought I had complained to the dean that he had been derelict in following the established law school procedures and that I was sneaking behind his back to discredit him. In fact, I remained utterly clueless as to what those procedures were and was reduced to tears as the chair of the committee spat on me and called me dirty names. During this tirade, the chair of the committee never shared with me his committee’s reasons, their recommendation, or the news that I had a right to appear before the committee. Nor did he share this information with me thereafter. (Nor did he apologize for unfairly screaming at me, spitting on me, or calling me a “faggot.”) . . .

After the committee’s report was ratified by the faculty, blood was in the water. For the remainder of my tenure at the University of Virginia School of Law, I was harassed on a regular basis by faculty colleagues and parts of the law school’s administration. Several faculty friends and at least one member of the committee explicitly urged me to get out of Charlottesville as quickly as possible, partly because there was so much hatred toward me on the faculty and partly just for my own mental sanity and physical safety (during the tirade by the chair of the committee, I believed that he was going to assault me). So I visited at the Georgetown University Law Center in academic year 1987-88 and accepted a permanent position there in 1988. . . .

. . . I did secure a copy in January 1986 and found that the committee’s report was built on a series of fabrications and factual misrepresentations. . . . [See testimony for more]
Wow, just wow. Who was the chair of this committee? (Mr. Eskrdige does not "name names," I imagine because doing so would not serve his cause.) In any event, shame on the Law School if his allegations are true. From reviewing Mr. Eskridge's accomplishments, its seems like the Law School lost a great scholar.

Thanks to Hunter of Justice and an anonymous tipster for bringing this to our attention.

Related:
Homophobia at UVA Law School Circa 1985 [Hunter of Justice]
Gay Students Attacked at Foxfields [Law Weekly]

64 comments:

Anonymous said...

Meh, if UVA was so homophobic I doubt they'd have treated Whitebread so well.

We're only hearing one side of the story on this.

Anonymous said...

back then it was probably bad. now, there are tons of gay professors now like my copyright teacher.

Anonymous said...

Gay copyright Professor?

Anonymous said...

I'm with 10:36, there's something of a long history of openly (or at least widely known to be) homosexual professors being fully accepted at UVA. This really seems to clash with these accusations.

Of course, it's entirely possible that the faculty was divided on Whitebred, and that homophobic members of the faculty seized upon a chance to lash out at the homosexual members.

I hate that we're (possibly unfairly) serving as the punching bag, but I really hope this anti-discrimnation bill gets passed.

Anonymous said...

11:23 + 12:57: might be a good idea to refrain from speculating about the "tons of gay professors" and what they teach, idiots

Anonymous said...

I don't know if there's a lot of homophobia here. There definetely a lot of discomfort with homosexuality, however, if that's a fair distinction.

Anonymous said...

Isn't (former) Dean Jeffries gay? I know a couple of the female professors are.

It sounds like the hostility wasn't BECAUSE of his homosexuality, just that a slur was used in an argument about something totally different. I doubt this is smart on his part: that's a pretty serious accusation he's levying with pretty thin evidence.

Anonymous said...

hey 4:34 -

i know what you mean, i have no idea what this guy's problem is. used to be you could verbally assault a guy and call him a faggot and spit on him and deny him a promotion (even if he is a giant in the field) without having to be worried about being slandered as a bigot or homophobe on such "thin evidence," as you call it.

these people, with their insistence on being treated with dignity - it's outrageous! and it's not just the gays persecuting us - the "race card" gets pulled too much also, as we know. these minorities are getting awfully uppity. this proposed legislation is an abomination.

as for the specifics of this case, i agree with 10:36, who wisely pointed out that "we're only hearing one side of the story on this." i know this guy has a lot of damning, refutable details, and that he gave this testimony under oath and penalty of perjury, but i just know in my gut that we have never, ever had any homophobes or racists or reactionaries anywhere near our campus ever in history. EVER. and certainly not recently. this is more PC garbage and i am tired of it.

/snark off

why don't you respond by floating more names of faculty members that we know to be gay and that you believe to be gay. it's a good way to distract attention from the substance of eskridge's testimony and the devastating bill of particulars he presents.

b

Todd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

What 6:37 said.

Anonymous said...

Whitebread got the hell out of Charlottesville as soon as he could and moved to Los Angeles, despite the move requiring him to teach at a lower ranked law school. I'm not sure this is good evidence of UVA's love for the gays.

Anonymous said...

Charlottesville is a lousy town to be gay in, and gay faculty have left for places where there is more of a gay community or where you won't always be seeing your ex. It's also a lousy town to be single in or to be a trailing spouse, again because it's a small town not that near anywhere.

That's a distinct issue from homophobic senior faculty. I don't doubt there were some in 1985. Probably had some homophobic old farts at Chicago and Harvard back then as well.

Anonymous said...

Hey, one of our former deans was as gay as you could be.

Anonymous said...

The more I think about this, the more the spitting part is the odd part. I can see homophobic senior faculty and senior partners anywhere in 1985; what I can't see at U.Va. is one of those old guys spitting on someone (as opposed to spraying instead of saying, but that's not at all the way Eskridge portrays it.) I just don't see anyone on the U.Va. faculty then deliberately spitting on a colleague. Neither do I see the faculty not caring if one colleague spits on another; it would only be slightly less shocking to have one perform fellatio on another in a faculty meeting.

This is headed to the radio and tv talk shoes.

Anonymous said...

yes, 8:48, the spitting is the worst part. i think a gay person would be more pissed about some bigot's spitting than about that bigot's f-ing with the gay guy's livelihood and discriminating against him in the workplace.

oh, and fellatio in the faculty room - good one! not only are you a fount of reason - you're so funny too! well done, well done.

Anonymous said...

How can UVA possibly refute these allegations? If they take this Prof to task they look cold and unsympathetic to gay issues (even if they have some contrary evidence), and if they have "no comment" then everyone will infer their guilt. This Prof. knew this, which is probably why he didn't provide any names (doing so would open himself up to rebuke or even a lawsuit). Not saying he's lying, he very well could be telling the truth. But he cleverly made it impossible for UVA to respond. Not to mention this was 24 years ago. Why no lawsuit or complaint in the meantime?

Anonymous said...

What I'm saying is this doesn't ring completely true. I'm not defending homophobia, and calling everyone a bigot who questions the story doesn't advance the issue.

Spitting on a fellow faculty member, deliberately, in and of itself, homophobia aside, is very non normal event.

If it turns out Eskridge has exaggerated the surrounding facts to make them more shocking (as if, for example, some angry colleague didn't deliberately hock on him but instead sprayed saliva while ranting) he's done himself and the cause of getting the statute passed a major disservice. If the facts are less one sided than some bigot walking in an hocking on him because he's gay, and it's all he said versus he said, it raises a lot of unhelpful issues given that what he is asking is a right to make a federal case out of it.

Anonymous said...

I do not have a hard time believing that this guy was discriminated against and denied a promotion because he was gay. If you have a hard time believing this you know very little about who he is and what his accomplishments have been. I think many Legislation classes use his textbook.

Anonymous said...

"Whitebread got the hell out of Charlottesville as soon as he could and moved to Los Angeles, despite the move requiring him to teach at a lower ranked law school. I'm not sure this is good evidence of UVA's love for the gays."

Dumb statement...not like he went to a second-rate school.

Anonymous said...

USC trolling

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:52, you are right U.Va. can't win, but that doesn't mean Eskridge and the bill can't lose. Eskridge isn't telling this story, we are told, just to get even with old enemies. The story matters because this is why we need this bill - or so he says

With that build up, he bears the burden of proof. If you can't prove even the iconic case, would this statute be a good idea? Maybe not. If it just leads to challenging employment decisions made on other grounds based on exaggerated facts, maybe it's a terrible idea

This story will have legs, and the audience will expand. If Eskridge is out to pass the bill, as opposed to settling old scores, he's going to need to name names and put proof on the table, if he doesn't, he gives a case study to the opposition and loses the moderate liberal vote.

Anonymous said...

U.Va. has had a lot of LGBT faculty before and after Eskridge, so clearly being gay is not a sufficient reason on its own to fire someone. I could, but won't in deference to privacy concerns, name several LGBT hired at U.Va. within a year or two of this incident.

That doesn't mean homophobia couldn't be a factor, and I believe that back then homophobia was very common at many schools.

In hindsight, given what Eskridge has done since 1985, U.Va. made a big mistake in losing a scholar like Eskridge. Whether they were just wrong or bigoted would require a look at what they knew at the time. Was he a jerk to work with? How was he as a teacher? Was his scholarship up to that point as good as what he did later? Were there any incidents that reflected badly on him? We'll never know unless Eskridge asks U.Va. to publish his personnel file.

Anonymous said...

I think people who are having trouble understanding why the Chair (allegedly) spit on Eskridge are misinterpreting the Chair's motivation. The trigger for the confrontation was the Chair's belief that Eskridge had gone behind his back for failing to follow proper university procedure. In short, he felt he had been called unprofessional and that his personal integrity had been challenged. That is why he lost it. I'm sure homophobia added to the vitriol--that would have explained the f-bomb--but that wouldn't have led to the screaming match in the office. It was more the fact that the Chair felt personally attacked and embarrassed that really unhinged him.

Anonymous said...

"If it turns out Eskridge has exaggerated the surrounding facts to make them more shocking (as if, for example, some angry colleague didn't deliberately hock on him but instead sprayed saliva while ranting) he's done himself and the cause of getting the statute passed a major disservice."

FLAWLESS REASONING, 9:55. the spitting vs. spitt(L)ing distinction IS CRITICAL.

the whole story and the whole argument for legislative reform falls apart if there was no spitting and only spittling.

what do we have without purposefully projected saliva? just some guy whining about and smearing one of our dear former professors for verbally accosting him and calling him a faggot and denying him a promotion without explaining to him the reasons for that (curious, given eskridge's credentials) denial. THE VICTIMHOOD IN THIS COUNTRY IS OUT OF CONTROL!

Anonymous said...

If you say some one walks into your office, addresses you with a hateful epithet, and then spits on you, and cite that kind of extremely hostile and intentionally offensive behavior as why we need a statute, yes, given the allegations, the spitting vs. spittling distinction is pretty important. The point of the story is to illustrate and make specific a kind of crude hatred directed at gays, which is so virulent as to require a federal response. No one is urging that we pass a major new law to address the crucial social issue of saliva control.

The repeated meme that discrimination is alleged, so the facts and the integrity of the story can't matter is tiresome as well as illogical.

Same thing with fearing for his physical safety. If that turns out to be exaggerated, he has not helped.

Anonymous said...

4:34 - Who are these gay female professors? I'm not aware of any gay faculty here other than Jeffries. Certainly no one who is decidedly out.

While UVA isn't necessarily a hostile environment for gay faculty and students, it certainly isn't a model of comfortable inclusion.

Anonymous said...

It appears to me that those who are trying to cast doubt on Eskridge's claim in their comments didn't read the real testimony. The testmony, done under oath, was rather detailed and comprehensive --- quite damaging to UVA Law. Actually the episode of "spitting or spittling" was a rather peripheral, not a major, event. I doubt UVA Law will even try to refute Eskridge's testimony.

Anonymous said...

Let's not name names online. Let's let people decide for themselves if they want to be out.

That said, Pam Karlan, who came to U.Va. not so long after this incident, is out. (She's now at Stanford, but at her choice.)

Anonymous said...

2:40, you've misunderstood, we agree.

we can't test the credibility of the story or any of eskridge's claims or arguments until we nail down the facts re: the unfortunate splattering that occurred in that office lo those years ago. the intent behind the saliva bath is, i repeat, CRITICAL - no conclusions are warranted if we cannot resolve the question "whence came the spittle?"

eskridge must prove his charge that said fluids were maliciously and not accidentally propelled or all his claims and recollections should be dismissed. this is because the whole edifice comes crashing if we take the spitting issue out of the equation and are left with only the other comparably unimportant facts eskridge lays out - that he was verbally accosted by a superior who accidentally sprayed him with spittle while calling him a faggot and denying him a promotion (under curious circumstances) and an explanation for that denial. cheers.

Anonymous said...

In retrospect losing Eskridge was a terrible move. But it's not at all clear it was motivated by anti-gay bias. If you look at Eskridge's publishing record when he went up for tenure, it isn't anything special by UVa standards, and doesn't really indicate what type of scholar he'd become. Perhaps his main article at the time was published in-house and was a very long discussion of mortgage rules and home ownership -- in some ways prescient, but not exactly cutting-edge stuff. Only at the very end of his stay at UVa did he start doing statutory interpretation work, the field in which he first made his reputation. In addition, at that time UVa denied tenure to a number of junior faculty with similar publishing records. (Some of those were bad moves, too.) It may well be that Professor Eskridge was the victim of anti-gay bias. But in the context of UVa's practices at the time, it isn't self-evidently true.

Anonymous said...

I read the testimony. It goes more into detail as to why, absent prejudice, he should have gotten tenure. There's nothing more on the tantrum/spitting/slurs incident.

The net of it is, he thinks clearly he should have gotten tenure, and his not getting it therefore reveals discrimination.

If anything, the full testimony suggests there may have been reasons aside from sexuality for his tenure denial. (Not good reasons, but other reasons.)

In hindsight, UVa denied tenure to one of the best scholars to teach there in the last 50 years. Dean Merrill, among others, was complicit in perpetrating a defective, irregular and unfair process (assuming Eskridge portrays that fairly, and he seems to.) If Eskridge tells the tale honestly, it seems they tolerated a professor spitting on and abusing a colleague with no consequences. Even aside from the bigotry issue, this is a very troubling tale.

Anonymous said...

4:51 pm, you demonstrate well that lame snark is the refuge of those who lack the depth to form a coherent argument, and yet are insufficiently quick to be witty. I'm guessing you've harbored a grudge against U.Va. since receiving your rejection letter.

Anonymous said...

Stan Henderson? The 'bizarro superman' crazed spitter was Stan Henderson? I am gobsmacked.

Anonymous said...

Eskridge describes Stanley Henderson in his testimony as "He was normally as mild mannered and polite as Clark Kent, but in my office he turned into Bizarro Superman."

Anonymous said...

Privacy Schmrivacy. If there are openly gay Profs, I'd sure love to know who they are. There are plenty of faculty allies, but other than Dean Jeffries I didn't know there were any other openly LGBT folks (students like myself, yes, but admin/fac- no) at UVA Law.

Anonymous said...

By the time Henderson went bizarro, the decision had been made by the full committee. The members were: Henderson, Abraham, Dooley, Kitch, Kneedler, Levmore, Lilly, Merrill, Ravenell, R. Scott, and Wadlington.

Of that group, Saul Levmore (now dean at Chicago), Bob Scott (now at Columbia), and Ed Kitch were strong law and Econ types, with others at least tending that way. That, to me, is a plausible alternative explanation.

If you reject that, you have to ask, is the current dean at Chicago guilty of having once helped deny tenure to someone because he was gay? I won't be making that accusation.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I think 11:01 is on to something when he says that ideological discrimination may have been a factor. Frankly, that's the type of discrimination that I witnessed/experienced the most from UVA law professors. If you are in a class where jurisprudential or philosophical issues are discussed, you're better off just mouthing jingoistic claptrap about the market than you are pointing out what a farce the law sometimes is. God forbid you suggest anything along legal realist lines - they hate that and will grade you accordingly.

Anonymous said...

?? legal realism is alive and well, certainly in no small part due to law & econ / political scientific scholarship on how judges decide cases. certainly some uva profs with a law & econ bend are engaged in this very research.

anyway, i actually don't think the causal claim (homophobia -> employment-related injury) is all that relevant here. first, assuming it is relevant, an "alternative explanation" such as "ideological discrimination" still leaves room for homophobia to have been a but for cause. second, even if homophobia wasn't a but for cause of a denial of tenure, certainly name-calling and spitting creates a hostile environment that we ought not tolerate. and finally, given the reality of discrimination against gays, we should employ a higher standard to avoid even the perception of discrimination. such an approach wouldn't be all that different from our approach to employment discrimination against other classes of people.

Anonymous said...

If your point is that U.Va. should endeavor in the future to not ever consider sexuality in hiring or tenure decisions, you are, of course, right. If you are arguing that U.Va. should not tolerate faculty spitting on homosexuals while yelling out slurs, again, you are right. This happened a long time ago, and U.Va. needs to never have it repeated.

However, in the context of ENDA, the causality thing would matter, and since Eskridge's point is that ENDA would give him a cause of action that he lacked back in the day, understanding what kind of cause of action he wants might just matter.

There's clearly no proof that homophobia was the sole cause. There's clearly reason to suspect that homophobia affected committee chair Henderson's evaluation of a man who went on to be a leading scholar. I guess for Eskridge identifying one bigot on the committee supports a cause of action. I'm guessing a lot of employers not suffering from homophobia will resist a cause of action that broad.

Anonymous said...

no 5:19, i'm a hoo, just like you, which is why i wish you'd stop posting. every word diminishes the value of all of our degrees so kindly STFU.

sincerely yours,
- 4:51

country lawyer said...

First, speaking as an old alumnus of UVA Law School, thank you for maintaining this weblog. It has told me more about this matter, and sooner, than either the UVA Law School Dean or Professor Eskridge, neither of whom has been forthcoming. That you may make inconsequential errors of grammar, spelling or syntax is of no real moment. You are not being paid as a lawyer to write this blog and those hectoring you for such petty errors should be mindful of that fact. Thank you!

Second, the basic charge Prof Eskridge makes is that he was denied procedural fairness in part because he is gay. His evidence is that he was not informed of the procedure by which he could refute the appointments committee's initial conclusions about his scholarship. Secondarily he cites a change in committee appointment procedure and homophobic remarks of senior faculty. But the basic argument is that he was not informed of his rights to contest or explain in part because of animus toward his sexual orientation. His evidence of animus primarily is the meeting which occurred between the chair of the appointments committee (who has now been identified by your blog as Prof Stanley Henderson) and Prof Eskridge on or about 11/20/1985. In that meeting Eskridge has stated under oath that Henderson called him a "faggot" and "spat" upon him. Henderson also, Eskridge says, accused him of "stabbing [Henderson] in the back." The meeting appears to have occurred less than 24 hours after the initial appointments committee vote to deny tenure, hardly time for Eskridge to have done much. In addition why any faculty member or student for that matter going to the Dean for any reason is a "stab in the back" is unclear. In any event, Eskridge says he did not go to the Dean, now identified by you as Richard Merrill.

Neither Henderson nor the UVA Law School has come forward with a version of events. Eskridge has stated under oath his recollection of events. That UVA at best made an error in judgment in denying him tenure is obvious. The reasons are more vague. Eskridge's point is that they would at least be less vague had he been afforded an opportunity to present his position and he was denied that opportunity in part because he is gay.

What is not vague, unless convincingly explained (and "I do not recall" in one form or another is not convincing) by Henderson or the UVA Law School, is Eskridge's statement under oath that Henderson called him a "faggot" in a derogatory way in their meeting on or about 11/20/1985. This conduct is inexcusable unless convincingly refuted and entitles Eskridge to an unalloyed apology from the UVA Law School NOW.

Eskridge's testimony that he was "spat" upon is confusing. A person who was "born and raised in Princeton, West Virginia," as the initial sentence in Eskridge's Yale Law School biography states, ought to know, and not be afraid to say, whether he was deliberately spat upon. The confusion, as yet unexplained, is a caution to you young lawyers to be wary of overstating your case.

His biography does not mention his time at UVA Law School. On balance, that is the UVA Law School's loss.

UVA Law School is well behind the modern media curve on this matter, and has considerable explaining to do--yesterday. Both Henderson and Merrill are identified on the UVA Law School's web site as occupying offices there, so they are available.

Anonymous said...

Dean Mahoney does have a statement out. From Brian Leiter's blog:
Virginia Dean Mahoney's Statement on Professor Eskridge's Allegations
Paul Mahoney, Dean of the University of Virginia School of Law, shared with me the following statement regarding Professor Eskridge's allegation that he was denied tenure based on sexual orientation:
Professor Eskridge testified that he was denied tenure in 1985 because of his sexual orientation.  He was not actually denied tenure, but was deferred for future consideration, a common procedure at the time. The faculty wished to see the fruits of his promising, but nascent, scholarly interest in legislation before granting tenure. His subsequent scholarship in that area was highly successful and influential, and he would certainly have received tenure at Virginia had he not resigned to accept a lateral offer from Georgetown.
People who were on our faculty at the time of these events deny that Professor Eskridge’s sexual orientation played any role.  Many were unaware of it.  And they emphatically deny the specific conversations Professor Eskridge recounts.
In my 19 years on the Virginia faculty, I have seen none of the prejudice that Professor Eskridge alleges.  On the contrary, relations among straight, gay and lesbian professors have always been warm and supportive.  Virginia prides itself on a friendly, collegial, welcoming environment and remains completely committed to equality, civility and mutual respect."

I will just add that Dean Mahoney's statement is consistent with what I have heard on various occasions from others familiar with these events and with the state of Professor Eskridge's scholarship at the time of the decision to defer.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure he meant that the chair intentionally spit at him. I interpreted it mean that the guy was uncontrollably yelling at him and in the process spit flew out of his mouth. Otherwise it would just be too weird, and the chair presumably would have been fired for assaulting a coworker.

I think it is important to remember the era of this case. Loving v. Virginia was only 17 years prior and Virginia schools stayed segregated into the 70s. Its not surprising that some of the faculty that provided the intellectual firepower for massive resistance were still around and still bigots. I think the bigger story is how far the law school has come since the early 80s.

Anonymous said...

Not that it hasn't been beaten to death, but Eskridge pretty clearly means us to believe that he was being deliberately spat upon, and that this is not a case of some accidental stray saliva.

If you find it unbelievable that he was spat upon deliberately, well, that raises credibility issues with the whole story. You may also find it unbelievable that he feared for his bodily safety a whole year later, and that led to his decampment to D.C. That would similarly raise credibility issues.

As for massive resistance and all that - that happened 30 years before this incident, so the overlap of faculty is practically nil (and that's not to say they were all racists, even in the 50's, at the University.) The chair who allegedly was doing the spitting was Stan Henderson, a mild mannered midwesterner who, so far as I know, has never been accused of being racist. It's just plain ignorant to say that since he taught at Virginia in the 80's he must have been either a massive resistance kingpin or their spiritual heir.

Anonymous said...

Everything else aside, isn't the time delay in bringing these charges a pretty big problem for Eskridge here?
I don't have trouble believing that there was homophobia at UVA (along with the rest of American society) in 1985, but you just can't wait 25 years (during which time you were a fully competent adult) after something happens to bring it up and expect that no one will doubt your version of events; plus, of course, the ability of the other side to respond is significantly reduced, since people are likely to have died, memories are less clear, etc. It would also help if Eskridge wasn't using his experience to score political points in favor of legislation he likes.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure his support for S-African divestment was not helpful either.

Anonymous said...

I had Whitebread for a class in 2000 and he repeatedly and openly hit on a male class member in front of the entire class. Nobody seemed to care, though (or would admit caring). It ain't 1985 there anymore.

Anonymous said...

i don't believe you 5:56, but congrats on your skillful attempt to deflect attention off of the issues by tossing out immature, gossipy bullshit. well done.

Anonymous said...

From reading some of the comments made on this blog, presumably from UVA student or alumni, I am quite surprised by the degree of homophobia, narrow mindedness, stubbornness and simple stupidity. Thomas Jefferson would be rolling in his grave if he reads some of comments made here.

Anonymous said...

6:01, I'm not sure why are you so enraged and accusatory. Charlie Whitebread, god bless his soul, was an openly gay, flamboyant, colorful character, much loved by the straight, gay, and lesbian faculty at UVA while he was here, and widely missed after he left (although still in close touch with many after moving to UCLA), and the fact he was invited back to teach in 2000 and that he accepted the invitation to do so, conveys relevant information about the alleged anti-gay animus by top-ranking faculty at UVA. The case of Prof. Whitebread clearly tends against Prof. Eskridge's allegations.

The story conveyed by the 5:56 poster was not hearsay, but rather something he witnessed first hand. The fact that Whitebread was openly gay is relevant to a faculty's freedom to act in this way in UVA, be invited to teach, and not having to fear or hide his sexual preference. Whitebread won teaching awards at UVA law in 1972 and 1980, which again tends against any alleged wide-spread anti-gay sentiment. Like Eskridge, Whitebread was immensly popular with UVA students. He was invited to give a commencement speech in 2000, to the whole gradauating class and their families. When he passed away last year, the law school held a rememberance in his honor.

The above was written, among other things, based on UVA official page in Whitebread's memory, at http://www.law.virginia.edu/html/alumni/uvalawyer/f08/rememberingwhitebread.htm

Anonymous said...

oops, link at

http://www.law.virginia.edu/html/alumni/uvalawyer/f08/rememberingwhitebread.htm

Anonymous said...

for some reason, it breaks

first half of link is:

http://www.law.virginia.edu/html/alumni/uvalawyer/

second half of link is:

f08/rememberingwhitebread.htm

Anonymous said...

I was a UVa law student from 1985 to 1988 and I am gay. Of course, I was not privy to any tenure conversations between Bill Eskridge and his colleagues and I was not involved in the process. I do not know him personally.

What I remember: many students (me included) shocked and disappointed that the school denied tenure to an accomplished and beloved teacher.

True, there were other gay professors on faculty at the time. However, with the exception of Bill Eskridge, none of them (tenured or otherwise) were particularly "out." (Whitebread was gone by 1985 and while he was undeniably "flamboyant" and "unconventional" from what I understand he was not open and public about his homosexuality before he left C'ville).

And who can blame these closeted professors? Back then (maybe now) UVa did not have a reputation for being the most liberal of places.

At the very least there seemed to be a "don't ask don't tell" attitude at the time. And if you knew or observed Bill Eskridge back then, you will likely agree that he was not a "don't ask don't tell" kind of a guy.

Bottom line: It is not out of the question that he was denied tenure in part or in whole because of his sexual orientation.

Just my opinion....

Anonymous said...

10:23 raises an interesting question on the openness of gay profs at U.Va.. When I was there, there were a few profs that were not hiding the fact that they were gay by any means. You'd see them around town with their partners, same as with the straight profs. They'd say "hello" and you'd say "hello" back, same as with the straight profs. No one cared. Isn't that what we want? On the flip side, they also didn't talk about it in class or promote any LGBT issues as far as I knew. Is that a bad thing? That's a genuine question. Maybe some feel they have a duty to be more active and assertive about it. Do they?

Anonymous said...

Regardless of whether a professor has a "duty" to be open and assertive, should he or she be denied tenure because he or she is?

PG said...

If people posting here think it's a bad idea to note which UVa Law professors are gay, that doesn't speak well of how accepting they think UVa Law is of homosexuality, nor of how comfortable professors really are with being "out."

Anonymous said...

Or maybe they just think such speculation is intrusive and people should be able to decide whether they want to be out or not

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:26, either 1) you are an idiot, 2) you think evaluating Eskridge's statements critically and skeptically is tantamount to homophobia, or 3) you can't identify irony when you see it. Maybe all of the above; almost certainly 1).

Anonymous said...

I find the rambling reference to Justice Powell, in what was obviously intended to be a pejorative statement, odd. Rather than providing evidence of the atmosphere at UVA in the 1980s, it provides evidence of his subjective view of UVA, and brings into question not only the veracity, but the emotional balance, of the writer.

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